Edward Mayes

Mola Salsa

We remember now it was Luis Buñuel Portolés
Stropping his razor in the first frames
Of Un Chien Andalou, the moon split in two

By a cloud. What we didn’t know was that Simone
Mareuil, whose left eye was sliced open
On the screen, would drench herself in gasoline

25 years later, on October 24, 1954, in Périgueux,
And burn to death, as did Thích Quẚng Đức
On June 11, 1963, in Saigon, his body falling

Forward after ten minutes, the wars continuing.
And if we hadn’t heard about the Buddhist
Bonfire from David Halberstam, who died

In a car crash on April 23, 2007
Near the Dumbarton Bridge, a bridge
We had crossed over hundreds of times,

We would not have read about it in
Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald’s books,
Which are about other fires that would continue

To burn had not he died in a car crash
On December 14, 2001, near Norwich. He was
57. Halberstam was 73. Thích, 66. And Simone, 51.

Add it up: for nearly 250 years four people lived
Without death fogging up with its breath
The window they looked through. And on May 31, 1431,

Someone took split oak, gathered branches,
Lit a fire that burned Jeanne d’Arc, who may
Have been thinking of the day, August 10, 258,

When San Lorenzo became patron saint
Of comedians, butchers, and cooks, saying Assum est,
Inquit, versa et manduca. We remember those who pissed

On the innocent campfire, and did the flames hiss
With derision or hiss with sadness, the night sky suddenly
There, soon to turn into day sky, with yet another sun to sink,

Another sun sunk, so soon after one had arisen,
Walking out through the smoke that turns us
Into ghosts we never believed in but now we have

Become, flickering as in a reel of film about to catch
Fire, and we leave the breathing room to other breathers,
The inhale and the exhale, the gasp and the shudder,

The slow dance of the fast death, the shallow grave
Of late evening, the stone on which is written FIN,
What we had always imagined to mean little more than The End.

Edward Mayes has published poems in The Southern Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, APR, and The Best American Poetry, with recent poems in The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, and Crazyhorse. His books include First Language (Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press) and Works & Days (AWP Prize in Poetry, University of Pittsburgh Press). He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina and Cortona, Italy with his wife, the writer, Frances Mayes.